Single Molecule Force Spectroscopy on Polysaccharides by Atomic Force Microscopy

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Science  28 Feb 1997:
Vol. 275, Issue 5304, pp. 1295-1297
DOI: 10.1126/science.275.5304.1295

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Recent developments in piconewton instrumentation allow the manipulation of single molecules and measurements of intermolecular as well as intramolecular forces. Dextran filaments linked to a gold surface were probed with the atomic force microscope tip by vertical stretching. At low forces the deformation of dextran was found to be dominated by entropic forces and can be described by the Langevin function with a 6 angstrom Kuhn length. At elevated forces the strand elongation was governed by a twist of bond angles. At higher forces the dextran filaments underwent a distinct conformational change. The polymer stiffened and the segment elasticity was dominated by the bending of bond angles. The conformational change was found to be reversible and was corroborated by molecular dynamics calculations.

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